We’re here with Rosemary Drisdelle, author of the Decoded Science article, “Foraging and Parasites: Are You In Danger When You Eat Wild Food?” and author of the 2010 book “Parasites: Tales of Humanity’s Most Unwelcome Guests.” Today we’re talking about parasites – and what they have to do with foraging, whether it be for wild meat, or plants.
Mom Prepares: In your article, you state that certain wild animals are infested
with Trichinella and other deadly parasites, making it almost impossible to decontaminate it even through cooking. In your opinion, which wild animals are the safest to consume? (ie, which are least
likely to be infested with parasites).
Rosemary: “All wild meat should be thoroughly cooked. This will kill any
parasites in the meat (but it may not inactivate things like prions
[mad cow] which do occur in wild animals – these are not parasites,
however, and therefore not within my area of expertise). The main
issue, even with meat that is thoroughly cooked, is that it may come
in contact with other food and utensils while still raw. These
parasites are typically very tiny and even a small scrap of meat can
contain many of them.”
Mom Prepares: What is the safest way to clean and handle potentially
parasite-infested meat or plants?
Rosemary: “The same advice applies here as for commercial meat and produce: use a separate cutting board and separate utensils for meat and be sure to clean the utensils and preparation area well afterwards. Wash plants
carefully, using running potable water, especially if you plan to eat
them raw, and don’t let them come in contact with raw meat. And, obviously, it’s prudent to discard anything that doesn’t look healthy.”
Mom Prepares: Out of the wild-growing plants, which types are more or less likely to contain parasites or parasite larvae?
Rosemary: “Wash everything, no matter how pristine the environment appears. Berries and fruits that grow above the ground and don’t come in
contact with the soil are less likely to be contaminated.”
Mom Prepares: What number one factor in today’s world has increased the
likelihood of parasite infestation in/on wild-growing plants and
Rosemary: “The biggest factor is contamination of the environment with wastes of people and the animals we keep (or indirectly support): domestic
livestock, cats, raccoons, geese, deer etc. Migrating waterfowl in
particular can carry parasites very long distances and into remote
What’s a Forager to Do?
This may sound dismal, but don’t give up yet! This doesn’t put an end to your foraging days; you can still forage and hunt wild game (as long as it’s legal in your area). Just make sure you wash everything you pick (wild vegetation) and thoroughly cook everything you catch (wild meat).
For more information, read Rosemary’s article, Foraging and Parasites: Are You In Danger When You Eat Wild Food? on DecodedScience.com